Education Week - June 1, 2016 - (Page 23)
percent of schools to 16 percent.
A rising share of students also attend the highest-poverty and most
racially isolated schools-a proportion
that went from 10 percent in 2000-01
to 17 percent in 2013-14, the GAO reports. The share of such isolated charter and magnet schools also increased.
(Concurrently, the share of schools
with zero to 25 percent of students
eligible for free or reduced-price meals
that were also zero to 25 percent black
or Hispanic increased from 60 percent
to 68 percent, according to the GAO.)
And in those racially and economically isolated schools, the GAO also
found, there are often fewer advancedcourse offerings. For example, in middle and high school for the 2011-12 academic year, 71 percent of low-poverty,
low-minority schools offered calculus,
compared with just 29 percent of highpoverty, high-minority schools.
"Our analysis of education data
also showed that schools that were
highly isolated by poverty and race
generally had fewer resources and
disproportionately more disciplinary
actions than other schools," the GAO
For Liz King of the Leadership
Conference, although the effort by the
Education Department to use federal
aid earmarked for low-income students as leverage on issues of state
and local equity is helpful, it should
only be expected to do so much.
"The forces that perpetuate segregation and discrimination are much
more powerful than the Title I dollars
available," she said.
legislative branch and the school
board," said Tennessee Rep. Bill
Dunn, a Republican who proposed
a bill this year to change that
state's constitution so that judges
can't weigh in on the constitutionality of the state formula. The bill
came in response to a lawsuit filed
by several urban districts last year.
"School districts don't have to
make a case to the voters for more
money," Dunn said in criticizing finance lawsuits. "They just have to
make it to one judge."
argument they should be making," said Michael Griffith, a policy
analyst with the Education Commission of the States, who has
studied state funding formulas. "It
shouldn't just be that 'We're equal,'
district leaders said. 'It should
be that we [as a district] have
sufficient resources to fund an
The language on public school systems in state constitutions varies
widely, but most of them guarantee
children a "suitable" or "efficient" education. Districts have argued that
those phrases should mean that districts have an adequate level of funding that's allocated equitably among
While those terms may seem ambiguous, districts have used a growing body of research and data collected in recent years to prove that
funding formulas prevent school
leaders from reaching legislatures'
In Kansas, for a suit filed in
2010, lawyer Alan Rupe said he
used the state's academic standards and student-achievement
gaps as measured by the state's
standardized tests to argue that
the funding formula left poor districts without enough money to
meet those standards.
Rupe's argument in that case,
Gannon v. Kansas, was bolstered
by two studies, one of which was
commissioned by the legislature,
that determined that a "suitable" education in Kansas should
cost around $6,000 per student.
Using that calculation, he argued
the state was about $400 million
short in annual funding. In 2014,
the state supreme court ruled the
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court
ruled in the case San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez that school districts can't
challenge finance formulas under
the equal-protection clause of the
U.S. Constitution. Districts instead
began arguing in state courts that
aid formulas violated state constitutions' equal-protection clauses,
though those cases were rarely
In 1979, Ohio's Supreme Court
determined in a funding-equity case
brought by the Cincinnati board of
education that the state's formula
would only violate the constitution
if the district proved that it "was receiving so little local and state revenue that the students were effectively being deprived of educational
opportunity." (The state constitution
requires "a thorough and efficient
system of common schools throughout the state.")
While Cincinnati's board lost the
case, other districts across the country saw an opening.
"People realized that that's the
'How Students Are Mixed'
But people should not extrapolate
too much from the GAO report, said
Steven Rivkin, a professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago who has studied school segregation and is skeptical that it is, in fact,
on the rise if it is narrowly defined.
According to research he's conducted, Rivkin said that the average
percentage of black students' schoolmates who are white has declined
since the late 1980s. But that by itself
does not mean school segregation is
broadly on the rise, he said.
That's because overall school diversity has increased as more Latinos,
in particular, enter public schools and
as schools enroll a smaller share of
white students. In addition, the dissimilarity between the racial makeup
of schools and their overall district
populations, according to his research, has declined in recent years.
"Overall, segregation of black and
white schools has not been rising, if
you're very careful to define segrega-
tion as how students are mixed, given
the overall fraction of kids who are
white and given the overall fraction
of kids who are black," Rivkin said.
Others don't think that school integration should be a lodestar for
rethinking education. Revealing the
extent to which traditional public
schools are segregated as the result
of choices by school leaders primarily
serves to reveal just how flawed traditional districts and K-12 systems
are in myriad ways, said RiShawn
Biddle, the editor of the Dropout Nation website and an education policy
Instead, Biddle essentially took
Pringle's point about institutionalized racism and put it to the opposite use. He advocated a scenario in
which black and Latino parents, and
not district-based schools and district
leaders and union officials, have direct control over how money for education is spent.
"Dollars follow children. Parents
direct those dollars. Then they get
to have schools in their communities
either run by other folks, or [which]
they run themselves, that will actually work to improve the quality of
education for their own children,"
Biddle said. "If you think you can actually win today's Indy 500 with a car
that was built in 1905, that's crazy."
formula is inequitable. It soon will
rule on whether it also is adequate.
"Basically, we beat the Kansas
legislature with their own stick,"
Does Money Equal Success?
In 2012, Washington's high court
ruled in McLeary v. State of Washington that because the funding
formula there disproportionately
relied on local property taxes, the
legislature had failed to make education a "paramount duty," as the
state constitution requires. The
Washington court has fined its
state legislature $100,000 a day
until it comes up with a new aid
In defending against finance
cases, state attorneys general often
argue that giving districts more
money doesn't equate to academic
The latest Texas funding lawsuit
was first filed by several districts
in 2011. Other districts later filed
suit; eventually, more than half the
state's districts were combined into
a single lawsuit, which wound up
before the state supreme court.
In defending the state in that
case, Texas Assistant Solicitor General Rance Craft argued that money
alone can't fix achievement gaps.
"Funding is no guarantee of better
student outcomes," Craft said during oral arguments last September.
"Money is not pixie dust."
In five of the seven previous
cases brought before the state's
supreme court over the years regarding the constitutionality of
the state's funding formula-some
of them stretching back decades-
The Government Accountability Office looked at the percentage
of high-poverty schools made up mostly of black and Hispanic students
compared to other schools over a period of more than a decade.
Percentage of schools
Low-poverty and 0-25 percent black or Hispanic schools
All other schools
High-poverty and 75-100 percent black or Hispanic schools
SOURCE: Government Accountability Office
districts had won. This time, however, the court determined that
while there were certainly achievement gaps, and that the system required "top to bottom reform," the
aid formula met "minimal" constitutional standards.
"Our judicial responsibility is not
to second-guess or micromanage
Texas education policy or to issue
edicts from on high increasing financial inputs in hopes of increasing educational outputs," Texas
Supreme Court Justice Don Willett
wrote in his opinion.
And in a Florida case decided
May 24, Circuit Judge George
Reynolds came to a similar conclusion on a challenge to the constitutionality of that state's finance formula. In his ruling, Reynolds said
that "there is a not a constitutional
lack of resources available in Florida schools."
"That doesn't mean that everything is perfect," he wrote, "it
simply means that there is not a
constitutional-level crisis sufficient
to warrant judicial intervention."
To Levy, the University of Kansas
legal scholar, such rulings are the
judges' way of saying: "Enough
is enough. This formula is close
enough. We'll take it. We're going
to wipe our hands of this process."
Even if judges agree that a state's
funding formula is responsible for
academic disparities, courts often
don't want to get involved in the
process of determining what is constitutional.
"These cases don't ever seem to
end," Levy said. "What would they
do if the legislature says no? You
can't jail legislators, because they
have legislative immunity."
I've seen what's
going on across
the states, where
judges are stepping
in and trying
to become the
and the school
REP. BILL DUNN (R)
EDUCATION WEEK | June 1, 2016 | www.edweek.org | 23
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - June 1, 2016
Education Week - June 1, 2016
In Special Education, A Debate on Bias
Proposed ESSA Rules Aim to Strike Balance
Civil Rights Office Gets Aggressive
Charter Movement Fuels Boom For Public Montessori Schools
News in Brief
Transgender Debate: What’s Next?
Free Website Expands on EngageNY’s Mission
Study on Teacher Test Finds Mixed Results
Blogs of the Week
Digital Learning Games Breaking Into K-12 Mainstream
Girls Outperform Boys on First National Test of Tech, Engineering
Oregon Creates a ‘Lens’ for Viewing Educational Equity
High School Takes Cue From Montessori
School Finance Suits: More Than Just a Legal Roll of the Dice?
Report Feeds Into Debate Over Racial, Economic Inequities
Blogs of the Week
Policing Girls of Color in School
The Plight of Black Girls in K-12 Schools
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Black Girls, Discipline, and Schools
Education Week - June 1, 2016